Interview: Marike Cools

In conversation with Dutch portrait painter Marike Cools. Based in Tiel, in the central part of the Netherlands, Marike produces stunning images using oil paint.



Can you talk about your journey into or interest the arts?

As a child I was always very creative and I drew a lot. I have always drawn and photographed, but painting only after my thirties.

The funny thing is that I knew for years that I was going to paint and that it would go well. This was present in the background.

But I didn’t have the peace in the years before I started. When I paint I am very much in my ‘own bubble’, I am completely absorbed in that. I really have to set an alarm clock if I have an appointment and can lose myself in it for hours. I really sit in the painting, in every little piece of it.

I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and think, for example, that the nose has to be slightly different.


Can you talk about your influences on your work, with directly the photographic influences but also the wider field of the arts?

I am a huge fan of drama, dance, photography and fashion, especially from the time of black and white photography, the 1920s and dancers like Nureyev and Nijinsky.

You can see all this in my work. Expression and contrast are certainly not lacking.
I am especially inspired by the power and mystery of man. The inner, the radiance, the underlying emotion and try to convey this to the viewer from a snapshot.

I have also painted in colour but I believe that my painting is better expressed in black and white.


Can you talk about your process of working. How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?

I often work seven days a week in many ways. But in a very relaxed way. It is ideal that I have a studio at home, so I can often walk in to have a look, even when I am not painting. My working hours are always different per week. I stopped trying to plan this. Sometimes it goes very well all day, but if not then I stop.

To even draw the subject on canvas or wood, a lot of thinking, cutting and pasting or editing on my laptop takes place first. For example, for my series of dance boards, I was allowed to take photos at a dance project in Amsterdam. That was great to do. At home I processed them into old slide-like black and white photos and painted them on old hardwood with oil paint. The wood must of course also be sawn, sanded and pre-treated first. It all takes a lot of time, but I really enjoy the whole process.


Do you find the process of creating work relaxing or therapeutic? I’ve become increasingly interested in the relationship of the sketchbook and the work to the artist.

I never use a sketchbook. Sometimes I wish! but I have it all in my head. I think about it all day long and regularly also at night or at the craziest moments. Especially if something of a face is not quite right when painting.

On my laptop I have thousands of photos of mouths, noses, eyes and hair that I often browse.

No it’s not relaxing or therapeutic for me.

I am too focused for that while painting. I get so caught up in the painting / portrait that I don’t pay attention to anything else. Not even on my posture or that I drink something in between, I often feel that afterwards. But when a painting is finished… that feeling!

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